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A Bell operating company (BOC) is any one of a group of 22 original local telephone companies that existed prior to 1984 after AT&T was divided up in 1983. Each BOC was given the right to provide local telephone service in a given geographic areas. The companies initially existed as AT&T subsidiaries and were called the Bell System. AT&T divested them to improve competition. The BOCs are not allowed to manufacture equipment and initially were not allowed to provide long-distance service.
The Unix operating system was developed by AT&T and the antitrust lawsuit that split up the company allowed AT&T to bring Unix to the market.
Bell operating companies referred to all the telephone companies owned by American Telephone & Telegraph prior to the United States vs. AT&T, a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust suit.
Bell operating companies arose from the United State vs. versus AT&T, a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust suit against the former American Telephone & Telegraph Company. The 22 BOCs were split into seven regional Bell operating companies (RBOC) known as "Baby Bells." This group later consolidated into three companies: Qwest, AT&T and Verizon.